Losing round one of the AMA Racing/Kenda National Hare & Hound Championship Series provided plenty of motivation for Kurt Caselli of the FMF/KTM Factory Off-Road Racing Team. That's the race where he led nearly the entire way, only to have a freak mechanical issue kill his Muscle Milk/Motorex/Dunlop-backed 450 SX-F almost within sight of the finish line, though he managed to earn fifth place after pushing his bike about a mile up a slight incline in the sandy soil to get there.
Even after a less-than-stellar start, it would not play out that way at the Moose Run, hosted by the Four Aces Motorcycle Club at the Spangler Hills Off-Highway Vehicle Area near Ridgecrest, California, on February 13.
"I definitely didn't get a good jump [off the line]," he admitted. "I've been trying some different stuff. With the dead-engine [start procedure], it's kind of hit or miss. We don't have a kickstarter [with the SX-F]; it's basically just electric start. It's more me than the bike. I get a little excited and give it too much gas and flood it out."
But he managed to get into third place behind CRF450X riders Kendall Norman and David Pearson by the end of the bomb. Defending series champion Norman led on his Johnny Campbell Racing Honda with round one winner Pearson close behind aboard his Purvines Racing machine.
At least that's how it played out until Norman lost it in a section of seemingly ever-present Ridgecrest whoops. Fortunately for him, he was able to regroup and keep going, eventually finishing fourth--a much better result than when he dropped out after crashing in the early miles of round one.
Pearson didn't have the race he wanted either. He'd hurt a shoulder and ribs in a racquetball game after winning round one and hadn't been able to ride until a couple days before Four Aces. When he went down at speed, he felt it, but he gathered himself up and also carried on to eventually claim a solid runner-up.
"After that I said [to myself], 'Calm down and ride your own race!'
"I was able to get by [Norman] in the pits so I was second leaving and that's pretty much where I stayed. Kurt was a little ways ahead; I could never really see his dust. He rode phenomenally today."
Monster Energy Kawasaki's Destry Abbott also placed one spot lower than he had at round one, finishing third on his KX450F after another disappointing start. "My starts just haven't been good. It's just frustrating," he said. "I felt like I rode strong."
But no one was able to keep Caselli in sight as he pulled away from the field to win by about seven minutes. "I think you had to be real patient [today] in a lot of the single-track and rocky stuff, especially when it's dry like this. You waste a lot of time when you're too aggressive and spinning the wheel and blowing corners so I really try to focus on just shifting up [early], being real smooth and making sure that I don't miss the ribbon, I don't miss the corners."
Kawasaki of Simi Valley's Jacob Argubright finished fifth followed by Pearson's teammate Carl Maassberg, Norman's teammate Colton Udall, John Burr Racing's Justin Morrow, Quinn Cody (the third JCR rider and in his first race back after Dakar) and Concours Auto Body Kawasaki-mounted Robert Underwood.